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Today's Word

Yesterday's Word



Sep 4, 2022
This week’s theme
Metaphors & idioms

This week’s words
Taj Mahal
chicken feed
third rail

How popular are they?
Relative usage over time

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AWADmail Issue 1053

A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Tidbits about Words and Language

Sponsor’s Message: “Will Shakespeare get you a job?” Alas, yes! The perfect antidote to today’s practically useless and laughably expensive university degree, as well as membership in an exclusive community of like-minded recalcitrants and kings -- the Old’s Cool Academy is a rigorous Great Books and traditional skills-based classical education for anyone hungry to quote Homer, build a boat, or bite the ass off a bear. Learn more.

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: Interesting stories from the Net

AI That Can Learn the Patterns of Human Language
MIT News

The Animal Translators
The New York Times

Style Invitational -- Anagram All 100 Scrabble Tiles
The Washington Post

From: Anu Garg (words at wordsmith.org)
Subject: metaphors and idioms

What metaphors or idioms have you or someone you know coined? I asked our readers and here’s a selection from the responses.

“Box of Kleenex version.” My friend Phil is a retired scientist, educator, and textbook author. We have ongoing conversations about the process of writing and editing and rewriting. This phrase of his refers to the final product which, he said, “is so good it makes you cry while you’re reading it.”
-Lee Barker, Redmond, Oregon (barkerbass bendcable.com)

When I was young, I saw my younger brother being bullied. Infuriated, I ripped up handfuls of grass and threw it at the bullies. Thus the term “grass-throwing mad” was born: an ineffectual yet heartfelt response to an infuriating situation!
-RoseAnne Mussar, Ottawa, Canada (rose mussar.com)

As children, when we did things that were “passed the limit” (or anyone for that matter) my mom would always say, “That’s too much sugar for a dime!”
-Pat Alvarado, Miami, Florida (piggybooks yahoo.com)

The way you rear your pup is the way you’ll have your dog. (A saying from my dad.)
-Norbert McDermott (nmcd nmcdermott.com)

Some years ago, when I was working for a bank, my department manager asked me to look into the possibility of pulling certain data from our records. I investigated and found that this would involve a lot of time and effort to produce inconsistent, unreliable results. When I explained this to the manager, he replied, “Don’t waste your time. You’d be pιssing up a rope.”
I was not offended by the metaphor but it struck me that it was not one I myself would have thought to use. I, personally, am anatomically incapable of doing any such thing up a rope, even if I wanted to.
-SarahRose Werner, Saint John, Canada (swerner nbnet.nb.ca)

When dealing with a seemingly impossible situation -- often bureaucratic -- I like to refer to it as “a real bring-me-the-witch’s-broom experience.”
-Capt. Richard Bailey, Wellfleet, Massachusetts (hms-rose comcast.net)

The one I’ve “coined” is a mild inversion of a well-known trope. Oddly, when I say of two similar items “It’s half of one and six dozen of the other,” most people don’t even notice. Same when I say of a task, “It isn’t rocket surgery.” Nine times out of 10, it just scoots on by.
-Neil Tesser, Chicago, Illinois (ressetn aol.com)

A phrase that hurts me to hear is: kill two birds with one stone. In times like these with so much killing and destruction and with so many species in trouble and environmental degradation on the rise, I wince and have actually had tears come to my eyes when I hear that phrase. So whenever I hear it, I will say, we need use the phrase “feed two birds with one hand.”
-Bernadine Ann, Portland, Oregon (bernadineloves gmail.com)

I don’t know what category this fits into, but in my family we occasionally quote my great uncle who as a boy had said of some pending event, “We are on the edge of the brink!”
-Chuck Cole, Evanston, Illinois (seecee913 gmail.com)

In my family, we still use an idiom coined/twisted by one of my nephews, who loved crackers, when he was a toddler. If we are doing something at sunrise, we still refer to it as “the cracker dawn”.
-Dottie Baker, West Jefferson, North Carolina (dbaker996 gmail.com)

I’m reminded of the story told of the early days of computer translation of English to Russian where the input was “out of sight, out of mind”. The actual translation of the phrase is apparently С глаз долой, из сердца вон (S glaz doloy, iz serdtsa von), but the computer, not knowing it was an idiomatic phrase, responded with Cлепой, безумный (slepoy, bezumnyy), which is “blind, insane”.
-Sam Long, Springfield, Illinois (gunputty comcast.net)

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak translated into Russian became the alcohol is fine but the meat is rotten.
-Vikram Hukmani, Baltimore, Maryland (vikhuk engineer.com)

From: Marilyn Bess (marilyn.bess gmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--rose-colored

You wrote: Yes, the oncologist was literally going to shine a light at the end of the tunnel.

Brεαst cancer survivor here. Obviously, I can’t speak for all cancer patients or even for colon cancer patients but I laughed aloud at this.

Marilyn Bess, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: George Mohr (gmohr81628 gmail.com)
Subject: Your encounter with friend with cancer

As someone who has prostate cancer and has completed surgery, radiation, and ADT therapy (shutting down the production of testosterone, the engine that feeds prostate cancer), I can tell you this is not the end for cancer patients. Each and every one of these modalities of treatment leaves an indelible mark on the body, many of which are difficult to manage.

I’m telling you this not to receive your sympathy or to admonish your attempt to be helpful to your friend, but to help you understand that the most appropriate thing that can be said to someone undergoing cancer treatment is: “I am available to listen to you as you go through your treatment.” There is never, from my experience, an end to cancer. Its residual effects are going to be with you for the rest of your life. Hopefully, you will spread the word. I am certain that your other friends, at some point, are going to confront a patient undergoing treatment for cancer.

George Mohr, Jackson heights, New York

Email of the Week -- Brought to you by Old’s Cool Academy -- Get schooled.

From: Frank L. Chance (flchance hotmail.com)
Subject: Rose-colored glasses

Art history buffs will resonate with this term and be reminded of the works of Claude Gelee, known as Claude Lorrain. This 17th-century painter produced landscapes so glowingly idealized that eventually Claude glass(es) were sold so the real world could also come across in the gentle tones of his pictures.

Frank L. Chance, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

From: Paul E. Smethers (paul.smethers nashville.gov)
Subject: rose-colored glasses

As a high school teacher I was very strict and wouldn’t “overlook” bad behaviors on days when the school had assemblies, Halloween, Valentine’s Day, Country Fair Day, etc.

I enjoyed the leadership of a great principal who used often to tell me on “special days” in the school that it would be good for me to put on my rose-colored glasses. He thought I would have an easier time with those stressful days if I learned to use rose-colored glasses. I tried and hated it.

I finally told him that rose-colored glasses were good for two things: distorting perception and hiding behind. I told him that I couldn’t afford the loss of perception as I had been trained to have a “jeweler’s eye” in the hotel industry in my youth, and I wasn’t about to hide behind anything when he wanted me doing hall and lobby duty. After that, we had a good understanding.

Paul Smethers, Nashville, Tennessee

From: Lee Entrekin (harpo mindspring.com)
Subject: Rose-Colored Glasses

This topic reminded me of the classic country song by John Conlee: video (3 min.) lyrics.

Lee Entrekin, Old Fort, North Carolina

From: Lucie Singh (lmsingh aol.com)
Subject: Taj Mahal

Some years ago my neighbours sacrificed a swath of their garden to construct a very large structure to house their cars. I labeled it the Garage Mahal.

Lucie Singh, Hudson, Wisconsin

From: Lawrence Crumb (lcrumb uoregon.edu)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Taj Mahal

When Cardinal Mahony was archbishop of Los Angeles (1985-2011), he built a new cathedral that was so lavish critics called it the Taj Mahony.

Lawrence Crumb, Eugene, Oregon

How to Sell the Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal: Single family-owned but never lived in.
-George Miller, Montrose, Colorado (glmmrm hotmail.com)

Live like a queen! Palatial elegance constructed for eternity. Large, white marble main residence set amid surrounding gardens on 42 acres. Has guest cottage (suitable for in-laws). Scenic views.
-Helen Derryberry, Nashville, Tennessee (hderryberry hotmail.com)

Historic property for sale: Beautiful fixer-upper; needs work on inside, i.e., plumbing, heating, air-conditioning.
-Sara Hutchinson, New Castle, Delaware (sarahutch2003 yahoo.com)

FOR SALE OR TRADE: Recently-built tomb, ready for immediate occupancy by the honored remains of your loved one. Minimal wear and tear over its brief 360-year history, currently just six million visitors annually. Desirable riverside location, attractive grounds, beautiful landscaping, and a reflecting pool. Current owner desires a final resting place with a little more of the patina of age, so will consider a trade for Stonehenge, Great Pyramid at Giza, or another property of similar antiquity and funerary potential. Priceless, but will consider any reasonable offer. Note that prospective buyers should plan to use the tomb in substantially its present form, as local authorities are not likely to permit significant renovations.
-John Tate, Austin, Texas (johnatate sbcglobal.net)

Ultimate luxury-ultimate place to end your life everlastingly.
-Vicky Shemie, Montreal, Canada (roubenvicky sympatico.ca)

A truly outstanding example of 17th-century lovely but not exaggeratedly opulent small palaces. Although formerly occupied only by one dear lady’s cremains, it offers all the comfort you can ask for in perfectly preserved marble, sandstone with a smattering of precious stones. Moderate-sized parties will enjoy the interior. Larger gatherings of friends will feel pampered in the lovely gardens.
-Judyth White, Greensboro, North Carolina (judythaw gmail.com)

Occupied by two previously dead persons and are conveyed with the property. Not zoned for a casino.
-Kirit Patel, Birmingham, Alabama (p_padma bellsouth.net)

Investment Property for Sale.
Better than collecting rent! Earn money effortlessly selling entrance tickets to tourists.
Low overhead -- no heating or air-conditioning needed.
Serious enquiries only. We also have some bridges for sale, cheap.
-Tom Areton, San Rafael, California (chitom chinet.org)

From: Glenn Glazer (glenn.glazer gmail.com)
Subject: Taj Mahal

Reminds me of an entry from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary:

Mausoleum n. The final and funniest folly of the rich.

Glenn Glazer, Felton, California

From: Robert Allen (rallen3129 icloud.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Taj Mahal

When the Bank of America Corporate Center was built in my hometown of Charlotte, NC, in 1992, it was seen as a monument to the ego of the then-chairman, Hugh McColl, as well as being a fancy corporate headquarters. It quickly acquired the local nickname of the Taj McColl.

Robert Allen, Richmond, Virginia

From: Laura Peebles (lhpeebles aol.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Taj Mahal

Nowadays they’re more likely to use lawyers than lethal weapons, but the sibling rivalries continue. Here’s a local one where they’re fighting over control of the Orioles baseball team.

Laura Peebles, Arlington, Virginia

From: Walter Comisiak (waltcom gmail.com)
Subject: Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal is also the stage name of a long-time blues/folk musician.

Walter Comisiak, College Park, Maryland

From: Ken Fireman (khfireman verizon.net)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--Taj Mahal

From the classic Broadway musical Guys and Dolls:

When you meet a gent, paying all kinds of rent
For a flat that could flatten the Taj Mahal
Call it sad, call it funny
But it’s better than even money
That the guy’s only doing it for some doll

Ken Fireman, Bethesda, Maryland

From: Pascal Pagnoux (pascal.pagnoux gmail.com)
Subject: Wrong foot

You wrote: Look anywhere in the world or closer to home to see the lengths some go to to become the king of the world for a few moments”.

In the Bible, the very first offspring of the very first couple killed his only brother, so the whole shebang started on the wrong foot if you ask me...

Pascal Pagnoux, Saint Gaudens, France

From: Charles Payne (charlierp gmail.com)
Subject: Teachers, Marines, and Businessmen have something in common

The greatest sign of success for a teacher is to be able to say, “The children are now working as if I did not exist.” -Maria Montessori, educator (31 Aug 1870-1952)

Reminded me that the Marine Corps taught us that the real test of a commander is how well his unit performs when he is not there. That applies equally well in business.

Charlie Payne, Captain, USMC (Stormed a beach in Vietnam 57 years ago), San Jose, California

From: Richard DeRemer (rlderemer hotmail.com)
Subject: Re: A.Word.A.Day--chicken feed

As Groucho Marx said, chicken feed is a poultry sum.

Richard DeRemer, Mendota Heights, Minnesota

What Is the Third Rail According to Our Readers

The third rail in Australia is Medicare; you just don’t touch it, as many a conservative politician has learnt.
-Dave Horsfall, North Gosford, Australia (dave horsfall.org)

In Canada one third rail, at least for those outside of Quebec, is that province’s language laws.
-Christopher Shand, Niagara Falls, Canada (seigeehcj gmail.com)

Trump is a third-rail conversation topic with lifelong Republican friends who, though always more conservative than me, used to be rational (except on the topics of taxes and social spending).
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

I think Trump is the third rail of Republican politics in the US.
-Norm Samuelson, Prescott, Arizona (norm.samuelson gmail.com)

Third rail in the USA for politicians and political candidates: support for Palestine or the human rights of Palestinians. Huge sums of money are spent to defeat candidates who express concern for justice in Palestine.
-Elizabeth Myers, Scottsville, New York (bethnmyers gmail.com)

White politicians in the United States shy away from the third rail subject of some form of restitution for descendants of former slaves.
-Marjorie Mota, Lakewood, California (mmarjorie386 gmail.com)

Religion, a mental pandemic which “poisons everything” (Christopher Hitchens), everywhere, is the most pernicious third rail in human history. Nothing else comes close.
-Don Ardell, Madison, Wisconsin (awr.realwellness gmail.com)

I asked my sister if she had her “ears” in (hearing aids). I only asked when I had to repeat what I said, but asking about “ears” set her off. Now I just speak louder.
-Sherry Sisson, Haddon Township, New Jersey (sleesisson gmail.com)

From: Gary Selnow (poteenspa gmail.com)
Subject: American Idioms

Years ago, I was a Fulbright professor in Klagenfurt, Austria. Students packed my first lecture, three times the number enrolled. I began the class and they wrote down everything I said and continued writing throughout the session. After class I asked someone about the heavy attendance, about all the note taking? Was it because the lecture was so good? No, she responded, “they want to hear your use of American idioms.”

Gary Selnow, Montara, California

Always Look on the Bright Side
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: rose-colored and hotheaded

When recent economic indicators appear to be pointing to an imminent recession, we have our Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen, looking at the proverbial glass half-full. She views what seems to be a gloomy economic picture, literally and figuratively through rose-colored glasses.

Hotheaded POTUS-45
Here, shortly after the FBI’s search of Mar-a-Lago, the former president gets his boxers in a twist over what he deems a “raid”. What was particularly irksome for him was the FBI operatives cracking open his safe. He wasn’t so much concerned about them finding top-secret documents, but was totally miffed that they’d confiscated a big batch of his precious fast-food coupons. Talk about getting your priorities straight. Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California


This week’s theme: Metaphors & idioms
1. Rose-colored
2. Taj Mahal
3. Hotheaded
4. Chicken feed
5. Third rail
= 1. Oh, it’s termed optimistic
2. Shah Jahan’s dome -- wife died, he adored her
3. Heckler
4. Meal
5. Total shocker
     This week’s theme: Metaphors and idioms i.e.
1. Rose-colored
2. Taj Mahal
3. Hotheaded
4. Chicken feed
5. Third rail
= 1. Had foolish hope
2. I’d liked her awesome estate
3. Rash hit
4. Hm... his red-cent joke
5. A dreaded critical moment
-Julian Lofts, Auckland, New Zealand (jalofts xtra.co.nz) --Shyamal Mukherji, Mumbai, India (mukherjis hotmail.com)
This week’s theme: Metaphors & idioms
1. Rose-colored
2. Taj Mahal
3. Hotheaded
4. Chicken feed
5. Third rail
= 1. Optimist
2. Like the work of Shah Jahan (he adored her!)
3. Rash mood
4. Meted seed; limited cash
5. Electric
     This week’s theme: Metaphors & idioms
1. Rose-coloured
2. Taj Mahal
3. Hotheaded
4. Chicken feed
5. Third rail
= 1. Reddish-hued. Oh, elated, I
2. Ah, majestic form - home, hotel
3. Rash
4. Nickels & dimes; iota
5. The powered track
-Dharam Khalsa, Burlington, North Carolina (dharamkk2 gmail.com) -Robert Jordan, Lampang, Thailand (alfiesdad ymail.com)

Make your own anagrams and animations.



I view the world through rose-colored glasses.
That assures my unhappy time passes.
I consider it neat
To just remain upbeat,
And not join the complaining masses.
-Lois Mowat, Orinda, California (lmowat1810 gmail.com)

“It’s a rose-coloured monocle, dear.
Shows me you as you were yesteryear.
You’ll be thirty once more,
And the girl I adore --
No! It needs to be stronger, I fear.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

“Though you see him through glasses rose-colored,
We’re afraid that your Donald’s a dullard,”
Said his teachers. But Fred
Replied, “States that are red
Will elect him.” At that, they all shuddered.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Taj Mahal

Does the Taj Mahal give you a kick?
I’ll disclose its strange origin quick:
It was built to perfection,
The largest erection
A guy ever got for a chick.
-David Goldberg, Pinckney, Michigan (montedoro44 gmail.com)

A humble abode have I got;
A grand Taj Mahal it is not.
But I am content
With bricks and cement --
White marble would show every spot.
-Marion Wolf, Bergenfield, New Jersey (marionewolf yahoo.com)

When your rent has gone up, you recall,
That income remains rather small.
For your one bedroom flat,
You can yell, “Fancy that,
I don’t live in the great Taj Mahal!”
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Of all of the peaks in Nepal,
This one is the real Taj Mahal,”
Said Sir Edmund. “To climb
To the top and then rhyme
Today’s word was no exploit banal!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


“I’ll admit I’m a hot-headed male --
That’s no reason to keep me in jail!
So, I got in a rage ...
Let me out of this cage!”
“Tell your wife. She’s refused to pay bail.”
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmesbtconnect.com)

A hotheaded person should never,
No matter how smart or how clever,
Be allowed to decide
(And I’m not being snide)
Any matter at all, whatsoever.
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

Says she, “All my life I have dreaded
congregating with people hotheaded.
But what have I done?
I’ve met such a one,
and to him I now find myself wedded!”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

The date of Jan 6, ‘22
And its meaning -- should long stay with you
Those marauding DTers
And their hotheaded leaders --
A scarily misguided crew!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

In Florida, ever hotheaded,
Obeying the law Donald dreaded:
“That’s for others, not me!”
But he soon won’t be free;
What’s top secret he ought to have shredded.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Chicken feed

That old Brooklyn Bridge is, indeed,
Up for sale; but repairs it does need.
You ask, “What’s the price?”.
Just let this suffice:
Compared to the moon? Chicken feed!
-Rudy Landesman, New York, New York (ydur36 hotmail.com)

That cute puppy would cost ! Yes indeed
She added up what stuff she’d need --
The cage and the training
And food! Not complaining --
Compared to love? Mere chicken feed!
-Bindy Bitterman, Chicago, Illinois (bindy eurekaevanston.com)

“A million? That’s mere chicken feed,
For by lawyers I’ve been fricasseed,”
Said Donald. “Please, Vlad,
Buy these docs -- you’ll be glad.
Pay me more.” Oh, the plot’s thick indeed.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Third rail

I was foolish enough once to say
“Very nice, Dear -- how much did you pay?
(Even now, I still quail.)
I had touched the third rail.
And the shock lingers on to this day.
-Tony Holmes, Launceston, UK (tony_holmes btconnect.com)

She quietly tells me the tale
of great-grandfather’s years spent in jail.
“Between me and you,
the topic’s taboo.
It’s our family’s secret third rail.”
-Anne Thomas, Sedona, Arizona (antom earthlink.net)

Said King Arthur, “Our search for the Grail
Will be told of in many a tale.”
All evening he’d chat
With his knights about that;
Lance and Guinevere, though? A third rail.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)


My little sister Rose-colored so perfectly in her coloring book, never going out of the lines.
-Janice Power, Cleveland, Ohio (powerjanice782 gmail.com)

For Jack’s sketch, Rose-colored her lips ruby red, donned the Heart of the Ocean necklace, and took off everything else.
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com) The photographer took many pictures of the white mausoleum and displayed them as The Mon-Taj Mahal.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

“Dahlink,” said Natasha to Boris, “I jahst lahve ze vay you taj mahal body.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Said Mephistopheles, “Faustus, thou art to the place which is hotheaded.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

“Mommy, how does a chicken feed its babies?” “It doesn’t, dear, they’re born knowing how to peck.”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

The businessman kept track -- It was his third rail-road trip of the month.
-Joan Perrin, Port Jefferson Station, New York (perrinjoan aol.com)

Richard the Third rail-ed, “My kingdom for a horse!”
-Steve Benko, New York, New York (stevebenko1 gmail.com)

Not cutting the moutard
From: Alex McCrae (ajmccrae277 gmail.com)
Subject: Not cutting the moutarde

Mon dieu! Arrête La Presse! France is suffering from a major shortage of Dijon Grey Poupon mustard! The country’s chief seed supplier, Canada’s Prairie Provinces, have suffered devastating losses, down to half their usual export quota. Extreme, prolonged heat leading to drought has been the main contributing factor. Here, hubby Jacques disappoints his wife, who has to settle for an inferior “foreign” brand of the tangy yellow condiment. What’s next, “les freedom fries”? Ha!

Alex McCrae, Van Nuys, California

The rightness of a thing isn’t determined by the amount of courage it takes. -Mary Renault, novelist (4 Sep 1905-1983)

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